Service Recap; July 17

"The time is surely coming, says the Lord God, when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it."

We read these harsh words from Amos 8 this week for our first lesson. Amos, the shepherd, is convicted that these are the words of the Lord, and so he speaks them clearly and loudly to "those that trample on the needy, and bring ruin to the poor of the land." 

Chapter 8 of Amos contains the sort of damning rhetoric that makes me wince. "That's the Old Testament for you," we might say. At first I wince because the God in this passage does not sound like the God of steadfast love. But Bob pointed out that the words are directed against those who are taking advantage of the poor. I feel good about that. The God that defends the poor...that is my kind of God. But then Bob reminded us that Amos' searing declaration is directed at God's people. Not at those outside the sanctuary walls, but at those inside them. 

Amos was followed up by Luke's brief sketch of an interaction between Jesus, Mary, and Martha. Mary sits at Jesus' feet listening to him tell stories. Martha works tirelessly. "Mary has chosen the wiser," Jesus says. "Well, yes, Jesus," I say in my head, "of course she has. Martha's doing all the work." 

Amos and Luke present the possibility of NOT being in the presence of God. Amos makes clear the reality that where the poor are trampled and taken advantage of, the Word of God will not be present. In Matthew 25, Jesus says that when we ignore the hungry, naked, and imprisoned, we ignore Him, because He is present with them. Of course, then, when the people of God participate consciously or unconsciously in the oppression of the weak, God's presence and Word will not be in their midst. The scene from Luke paints a more tangible and mundane scene, where Martha is simply too worried and busy to be in the presence of Christ. Bob suggested that we "make it or break it by paying the right kind of attention in the mundane." Martha is too busy to pay attention-to notice that the living God was telling stories in her house. 

I don't think the point of these stories is that God will recuse Himself from us if we don't do the right things. I think the point is that God is right in front of us. He is with the woman on the corner we pass each day, whose story would move us in ways that might threaten our comfort. He is with the co-worker who, if we would give him our true attention, would confess his humanity to us in ways that would for us to view him not as a co-worker, but as a fellow image-of-God-human-being. The truth is that we have the great power to pay attention or not. We have the great power to ignore God's presence in the world, and in that way live in a world void of the Word of God. But we can also sit at the feet of Christ and hear his stories. We can pay the right kind of attention to the suffering in the world and participate in it, and in that way become the hope of glory. 

From the Heidelberg Catechism

What does the 8th Commandment require of me? That I do whatever I can for my neighbor's good. That I treat others as I would like them to treat me, and that I work faithfully so that I may share with those in need.

Communion Song

Prayers of the People

We continue to pray for and end to the violence in our world.  We pray especially today for the victims and families of the attack in France.  Remember in your mercy all who mourn and grieve the death of family and friends.  Nourish them with patience, comfort them with a sense of your goodness, strengthen them to meet the days ahead.   

Lord in your mercy....Hear our prayer

We pray for peace in the streets of Turkey. Give wisdom, creativity, and perseverance to all who work for unity, peace, concord and the freedom of all people.    We remember missionaries from our denomination, Rick and Stephanie and their family who work tirelessly to bring your good news to that region.  May you continue to provide safety to them and wisdom in the midst of uncertainty. 

Lord in your mercy...Hear our prayer

Open our eyes, O Lord, to see that you have made of one blood all the peoples of the earth.  Grant that people everywhere may seek after you and find you, bring nations into your fold, pour out your Spirit on all flesh, and hasten the coming of your kingdom.  

Lord in your mercy...Hear our prayer

{As we continue to pray in light of the tragic events across the country, we offer this article from the publication, Perspectives, to continue a dialogue around difficult topics. The article  discusses the difference between guilt and responsibility, and encourages us to allow the stories of recent weeks to become personal.}

Announcements

  • Grace is cooking at the Joshua Center this Thursday. Nathan Bowman is taking the lead this month. Email Caleb if you are interested in helping cook food for the women who live at the shelter at Breakthrough.
  • Men's Meetup is next week Thursday (28th). We'll meet at Green Street Smoked Meats and walk to Beer Bistro afterwards. Email Tekus@me.com for more information.
  • Lisa Zook is hosting a Dinner with Grace on July 31st. Join us in the evening for a casual meal. This is a great opportunity to meet some new folks! More info on the events page. 

Service Recap; March 20

By: Bob Reid

Luke tell us that Jesus began his public ministry by reading these words in the temple:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing”

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that at the end of Jesus’ public ministry the poor are front and center. It is the poor who accompany Jesus into Jerusalem the day we have come to call Palm Sunday.  We know this, Caleb reminded us, because Jesus enters the city on the East Side. Like most ancient cities and many still today, the wealthier people live in the higher parts of a city, while the poor live in its lower parts; the lower parts get the runoff, the waste.

Earlier in Luke's gospel, soon after Jesus frames his ministry as good news for the poor, he says this: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Matthew says Jesus said, “poor in spirit”. It would seem likely that he said both. The trouble is that the rich almost always seem to find it more difficult to recognize their (our) spiritual poverty, perhaps because they (we) are so seldom reminded of their (our) vulnerability and brokenness. 

Caleb reminded us that while Jesus was entering on the poor side of Jerusalem, Pilate was entering the city on the “Upper West Side”, not far from where the religious leaders lived. Luke’s geography paints a vivid theological picture for us. The poor welcome Jesus, and the rich and the powerful crucify him. What is so amazing about the gospel, however, is that God’s love is for all people, even those who resist him the most, even those who conspire to kill Jesus unjustly. Later, in the book of Acts, Luke tells us that among the many converts in Jerusalem were a  great number of the temple priests, an important reminder that the gospel does reach the Upper West side too. We serve a great God!